Vaccines Coronavirus

All about the COVID-19 vaccines

Updated: 20 December 2021

What will the coronavirus vaccine do?

The COVID-19 vaccines are designed to protect you from coronavirus by creating the antibodies and cells required to fight off coronavirus and provide immunity from the virus.

This does not mean you cannot catch or spread the virus, as the vaccines are given in two doses, and the body takes time to create the protection it needs.

There are three vaccines approved for use in the UK:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty) (12 years and over)
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (Vaxveria) (18 years and over)
  • Moderna vaccine (Spikevax) (12 years and over).

Will the vaccines be safe for people with muscle-wasting conditions?

Advice from Professor Francesco Muntoni, Professor Ros Quinlivan, Dr Adnan Manzur and Dr Chiara Marini-Bettolo, the four neuromuscular experts leading the paediatric and adult North Star and SMA Reach networks of neuromuscular health professionals:

‘In line with the national and international guidelines, we can advise that the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should be fine to receive for those living with a neuromuscular condition, including those on immunosuppression treatments. We therefore encourage you to get vaccinated at your earliest opportunity.

Those on immunosuppression may have a reduced immune response (in other words, the vaccine will be less effective) but can still have the vaccine.

Please make every effort to avoid exposure to COVID-19. If you feel unwell then please seek a PCR-based test from the national testing centres. If this is positive, please let your specialist teams know as soon as you can.

It is important to remember that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) would not have licenced the vaccine if there were any doubts as to its safety.’

There are common side-effects from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine; you can refer to the information provided to you when you received your vaccine, or to the government website. If you have any concerns, you are advised to speak with your neuromuscular clinical team. If you have received a COVID-19 vaccination and have experienced side-effects, you can report all suspected side-effects to the MHRA by using the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting system.

When will I receive a vaccine?

All adults in the UK should have been offered a first dose of the vaccine. However, if you're aged 16 or over and have not yet received a vaccine, you can book an appointment on the NHS website or find a walk-in vaccination centre. If you cannot book appointments online, you can call 119, free of charge. You may also want to get in touch with your GP practice, as it is possible to book appointments through them.

For more information about who can get a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, please visit:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/who-can-get-the-vaccine/

Children

On December 22, the JCVI issued new vaccination advice for children and young people. They say that vaccinations are to be offered to 5- to 11-year-olds who are at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). You can read more about this advice here. We will publish more information in due course. Should you have any questions we recommend that you contact your specialist.

The NHS is now offering the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children and young people. Children aged 16-17 years old are now able to book their second dose of the vaccine. Currently, children aged 12-15 years are being offered a single dose of the vaccine, but will be eligible for a second dose after three months. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is currently advising that children aged 12-17, who have recently tested positive for coronavirus, should allow a 12-week gap before receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

For further information, please visit:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-resources-for-children-and-young-people

Winter vaccination plan

The COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide protection against serious illness, hospitalisation, and dying from the virus. However, to help with improving the protection given from the first two vaccine doses, and to help maintain a higher level of protection through the coming winter, the JCVI announced in the autumn that there would be a third primary vaccine dose.

Third primary vaccine dose

The JCVI recommended a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people with severely weakened immune systems. This is because they may have developed less of an immune response than the general population after the standard primary vaccine course. This could include some people with muscle-wasting conditions, who are immunosuppressed. The third jab should be offered at least eight weeks after the second dose. However, the timing of the third dose may be changed if there are any treatments that could impact your immune system.

Decisions on whether to administer a third dose are being made on a case-by-case basis, and your clinical team will contact you if you are eligible. If you have yet to be contacted regarding a third dose, but think you should receive it, do get in touch with your doctor. 

You can find more information at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine-3rd-dose/

Booster vaccine doses

The COVID-19 booster vaccine programme began in autumn 2021 and is being rolled out to ensure that protection is maintained at a high level throughout the winter months. Initially, the boosters were made available to people who were more vulnerable to severe COVID-19, but the JCVI has accelerated this because of the emergence of the Omicron variant.

You can get a booster dose if you've had a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least three months ago, and:

  • you are aged 18 or over
  • you are aged 16 or over with a health condition that puts you at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • you are a frontline health or social care worker
  • you live or work in a care home
  • you are aged 16 or over and are a main carer for someone at high risk from COVID-19
  • you are aged 16 or over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system.

You will be offered a booster dose by the NHS six months after your primary vaccine course. It is also possible to book and pre-book a booster dose using the NHS online booking system or by attending a walk-in vaccination site.

You can find more information at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-booster-vaccine/

Advice for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

The general advice is for the whole of the UK. But you can follow these links to find out more specific vaccination information for these nations:

If you have any concerns relating to coronavirus or the COVID-19 vaccine, you are advised to speak with your neuromuscular clinical team.